As you get ready to check out at the grocery store the cashier asks, “Paper or plastic?”  Let’s add a third bag into the mix. Imagine that there were three types of shopping bags:  Paper, plastic or vinyl.

All three are capable of carrying groceries.  But they do not have the same weight capacity. If I try to put the same amount of groceries in the paper bag as I do the vinyl, well, you know what will happen: Broken eggs on the concrete.

Over the years, I have confused my capacity with my capability. While I have a sense of my capabilities, I have had to learn how to come to terms with my capacity.  I’ve learned to ask, “What would you have me do with the strength you’ve given me, today, Lord?” I first invited the Lord into this process a bit begrudgingly.  But now, the sweetness of my dependence on Him grows and ironically, so do the opportunities!   The question connects my finiteness to His infiniteness and gives me hope, even while it provides restraint.

Our capability connects us to possibilities, opportunities, exploration, expansion and growth.

Our capacity connects us to our finiteness, our frames and our fragility.

If we are focused on what we can do because of our ability, we are likely to overstep and become stretched beyond our ability to execute. Suddenly we are overwhelmed and begin to question, “Why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me?”

If we are focused on what we can’t do because of limitations of time, health, resources, etc., we may be slow to step out, less likely to engage in those opportunities and resistant to being stretched.

As with so much of life, the solution is hardly an easy one, although it is simple. It requires that we learn how to live in the tension of the two.  We must periodically pick up the “grocery bag” of our own capacity and check the weight what we are carrying.  Otherwise,we might just overstuff the mind, the body, the soul, with more than it can carry. And then what will we have: Broken eggs on the concrete.

Where do you tend to be focused?  Do you look only at your capabilities and the opportunities?  Or do you dwell on your capacity and the limitations?

What would change if you lived in the tension between the two?  What opportunities might you step into?  What things would you reconsider and say “no” to as a result?

For me?  I’m learning how to live so that the eggs actually make it into the house…  how about you?

Photo Credit: Denise Myers